More terrified civilians have taken advantage of a relaxing of a curfew by Pakistan’s military to flee the Swat Valley. In the intensifying offensive against Taliban militants, the government forces claim to have killed 180 fighters over the past 24 hours. Fearful of the fighting, thousands of locals have already fled to relief camps in the north west of the country. Aid workers there say conditions are becoming intolerable as facilities are inadequate to cope with the numbers needing assistance.
The battle in the Swat Valley and neighbouring districts has become a test of Pakistan’s resolve to fight a growing insurgency that has alarmed the West. Government forces aim to take the region from militants who also dominate the adjoining tribal belt along the Afghan frontier where US officials say al-Qaida chief, Osama bin Laden may be hiding.